Lord Of The Fish

Standard fare on fish menus, bluefish (Turkish ‘lufer’) tops the list of fish lovers’ favorites for the flavor of its flesh and its distinctive aroma.

Karakin Deveciyan has done extensive research on the fish of Turkey and turned that knowledge into books. As this master puts it, “Lüfer is not to be confused with other fish. It is distinguished by the flavor of its flesh, its boldness in attacking fish bigger than itself, its way of snapping lines and its dexterity in getting away.”

Highly valued by the people of İstanbul, lüfer has been called at different times ‘the sultan of the strait’. Unlike any other fish, this beloved bully of the Bosphorus is also known by a variety of different names depending on its stage of development, from the small koruk and defne to the slightly larger çinekop and sarıkanat and, finally, the full-grown lüfer and kofana.  Line fishing buffs wait patiently at the Bosphorus entrance to the Black Sea in early September to catch the first lüfer of the season.

In summer schools of lüfer make their way from the Aegean to the Marmara and the Black Sea to lay their eggs. Developing in the Black Sea’s nutrient-rich waters, they head back down the Bosphorus starting from mid-September. If they manage to elude today’s powerful radar-equipped fishing boats during this migration, they live for a long time in the Bosphorus and the Marmara providing a catch all winter.

The lüfer that are widely caught in nets today live in schools. Not particularly fast-moving, they tend to be fatty and therefore more tasty. The lüfer caught by line fishing are those that swim independently outside of schools. More fast-moving, they contain less fat and are therefore less flavorful than those caught in nets. Unlike net-caught lüfer, however, lüfer caught on a line stay fresh longer.

Once common in the Golden Horn, lüfer today will probably not be seen much longer even in the Bosphorus. Every effort made to preserve them is therefore worthy of support. Following recent efforts, some fish have started returning to the Golden Horn. Let us hope lüfer will one day be among them. 

BLUEFISH PILAFF
Ingredients:
1 bluefish, 300 gr rice, 100 gr butter, 75 gr olive oil, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/4 bunch fresh dill, finely chopped

Preparation:
Clean the fish well. Fillet with a knife, bone and prepare for cooking. Heat the butter and olive oil in a skillet and add water. Sprinkle with the salt and cinnamon. Rinse the rice and drain in a sieve, then add to the boiling water and stir. When it returns to the boil, add the fish fillets over the rice, lower the heat and let stand over low heat 10-12 minutes. Then remove from the heat and let sit for 5-6 minutes. Remove to a serving platter and garnish with the chopped dill.

BLUEFISH STEW
Ingredients:
1 bluefish, 1 red onion, finely chopped, 1 clove of garlic, 1 tomato, skinned and finely chopped, 1 tsp vinegar, 1 tsp currants, 2 sticks of cinnamon, 1 bay leaf, 3 tbsp olive oil, 1 cup water, 1/4 tsp black pepper, 1 tsp salt.

Preparation:
Clean and wash the bluefish and cut into thin slices. Brown in olive oil on both sides and remove to a platter. Heat more olive oil in a skillet and add the chopped onion and garlic. When the onions are well cooked, add the chopped tomato and stir. Add the salt, pepper, stick cinnamon, vinegar, currants and bay leaf and a cup of water. Bring to a boil, then add the fish slices to the boiling sauce. Let simmer over low heat for 8-10 minutes and remove from the heat. Serve piping hot.